Basehor Inmates at the United State Penitentiary in Leavenworth are benefitting from a friendly relationship between the feral cats at the prison and the Leavenworth County Humane Society in Basehor.
LCHS makes sure the cats on their grounds are healthy, sterilized, vaccinated and ear-tipped and have access to medical care if they become ill or get injured. In return, the prison benefits from non-toxic pest control, and a prison spokesperson says the inmates enjoy the presence of the cats.
“Relocating the cats is not the best idea,” said LCHS president Crystal Swann Blackdeer, “but we can help with vet care, food and simple shelters. These aren’t pet cats. They aren’t adapted to being in a home with a family. They’re adapted to living outdoors.”
Many prisons around the country have feral cats on their properties, because the cats have access to food, water and shelter, said Executive Assistant at USP Leavenworth Treavor Kroger. However, he said, these resources can contribute to excessive breeding and the transmission of disease. The partnership with LCHS removes the breeding and disease concerns.
LCHS pays for the program in part with a $500 grant they received from the Humane Society of the United States. LCHS has been working with the federal prison and its cats since 2013. Through the partnership, the more than 30 cats at the penitentiary have access to medical care if they become ill or get injured, and if they are beyond recovery, they can be humanely euthanized by a veterinarian.
“It just takes communication and cooperation,” Blackdeer said. “The camp staff let us know what the cats need, and we help get it for them.”
If a surprise litter is born at the prison, LCHS will pay for vet visits to sterilize the mother and her offspring and make sure every cat has its vaccinations, Blackdeer said.
"Sometimes people try removing cats, but that just creates a vaccuum," Blackdeer said. "When the resources remain, new cats with unknown health status' move in and they breed. Trap, neuter, return is the only proven approach to stabilize and manage feral cat colonies."
Kroger said the biggest benefit that comes with keeping the cats on prison property is free, non-toxic pest control. The inmates do not routinely feed the cats, Kroger said, because they don't have to. Even when they have packaged food available, the cats will hunt, Kroger said.
"The staff and inmates alike, enjoy having and seeing the cats around the institution," Kroger said. "Some of these cats have been a part of Leavenworth for many years."
Although the cats prefer to be left alone, Kroger said, inmates appreciate the distraction and feel a sense of "normalcy" because of them.
LCHS works with other feral cat colony car takers in the county. To arrange for assistance with a feral cat colony, email Blackdeer at LvnCoHS@live.com.